THE RUNWAY – YOUR 2016 PILOT SURVIVAL GUIDE: CBS DRAMAS

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Bull

Logline: Based on Dr. Phil McGraw’s early days as head of one of the most prolific trial consulting services of all time.
Cast: , ,
Creators: Phil McGraw (Writer / EP), (Writer / EP), (EP), (EP), (EP)
Studios: CBS Studios, Stage 29 Productions, Amblin

Naturally, a procedural to kick things off.

Bull takes us into the operations of Trial Sciences, Inc. (TSI), an that studies jury behavior and tries to structure legal defense in a way that ensures a favorable verdict without resorting to manipulative tactics. At the helm of this business is Dr. Jason Bull, a man described as being “not especially attractive, but with a physicality and feral intelligence that make him magnetic to women, and a bruising candor.” (Note: this pilot is written and executive produced by Dr. Phil. Yes, that Dr. Phil).

It’s getting harder and harder to find places where stories can walk in the door and still seem fresh. Bull tries, but doesn’t quite get it right. I’m not sure TSI is unique enough as a setting, because the way they assist the legal defense is actually quite similar to what we’re used to seeing in How to Get Away with Murder or Scandal.

I think Bull is aware of this deficiency to an extent. At times it’s so intent on building its not-so-unique setting that it forgets to entertain. There’s just so much exposition at times that characters aren’t even speaking to each other. They’re speaking to us. Not ideal.

Which brings me to character and relationships. Does Dr. Bull make the cut as the latest horrible boss to both shock and entertain, garner respect and hatred? Nice try, but nope. Unlike Don Draper and House and Annalise and Olivia Pope, it’s difficult to get a handle on Jason Bull in this pilot.

Smartest guy in the room? Check. Loner? Check. Volatile? Check. But other than these generic descriptors, it’s a struggle to define Bull. Without the writers digging in deeper, Weatherly has his work cut out for him.

It doesn’t help that his team is equally generic. For instance, Bull’s brother-in-law is introduced as being the “closest Bull has to a true friend.” I wouldn’t know if I weren’t told. Like HTGAWM and Scandal that rely more on unique team combinations rather than settings, Bull is going to need to have a lot more fun with its supporting cast. We need romance. Rivalry. Envy. Secrets. Unique voices.

Finally, the pilot plotline. It’s currently about an entitled young man who is accused of killing his studious Asian drug dealer on his 18th birthday. The plot line focuses heavily on media and internet. Instagram. Snapchat. None of this is particularly inventive or feels integral to “Bull.” By the fourth act, it’s clear that it’s contrived to delivery backstory about Bull’s daddy issues.

Meh. It’s one of the plot lines you’ve seen at least once on every other broadcast show. I wouldn’t be surprised if they switched the pilot trial to something that shows off Bull and his team a little better.

In conclusion, Bull has its work cut out to stand apart on a network that is already laden with procedurals, and has little room for more this season. That said, hope remains for any pilot that has a character called Bill Klausterfokken.

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1 Comment

  1. As a Nancy Drew fan, I have mixed feelings. Sure, I would like to see a new Nancy Drew show, but this pilot is taking away the fun of Nancy being a teenaged amateur sleuth. On the other hand, I’m curious to see how this will all play out. Really hoping for a series pick-up! :)

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